One year ago today, this happened…
We took off from Houston and (two days later) landed in a new country, Australia, and a new home, Brisbane.
As you may or may not know, I spent the majority of the first 14 years of my life as an expat kid. Now they have a fancy name for that, third culture kid. Whatever you want to call it- I spent most of my formative years outside of the United States.
That being said, when we told people that we were moving to Australia most of them responded with something along the lines of “that won’t be too much of a change for you.” Obviously I only know my perspective and to me it was a completely different experience than when I was just aimlessly following around my parents as they navigated all of the logistics of living abroad. I plan one day to compare the two in a post, but that day is not today. Today I want to share ten things that I have learned in my first year as a grown-up expat.
1. You can do scary things
Once you are out of your comfort zone a lot of things that never seemed daunting or intimidating before all of the sudden are terrifying. For me starting to work in the schools was terrifying, especially not knowing where or who I would be working with every day. The first few days I was available I remember crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t get called. Now that I have been working for several months I love my job and can’t believe I considered giving up before I even gave it a chance. Also, I used to cry almost every time I tried to drive our standard car and thought I would be riding the bus the rest of our time here. Compared to what a lot of people living in much different or less westernized countries have to accomplish it doesn’t seem like a feat at all. But no matter where you are or what the challenge is, you can do it! Plus, you will be so proud of yourself when you conquer that fear.
2. Things may be different- but that doesn’t mean they are worse
Living in Australia I feel like Americans that often move here see that it looks like the US and sounds (somewhat) like the US so they assume everything must be the same. We are literally on the opposite side of the world, things are not going to be exactly like they are at home. You have to remember that different doesn’t mean that they are worse. You adjust and then who knows you might actually like their way better.
3. Your husband/significant other is your best friend
Obviously I knew that before (that’s why we got married) but moving across the world and not knowing a soul has just made us even closer. Without the support system of friends and family to lean on, we have had to rely on each other more than we ever would back home. We have had the most fun spending our weekends exploring our new home just the two of us.
4. People really can’t identify American accents
I get Canadian, Polish and Irish more than I get American. But mostly Canadian, because apparently Canadians get offended if you ask if they are American so they always guess Canadian first.
5. Alone time isn’t so bad after all
I used to be one of those people that hated to be alone. When Travis would go out of town, I would immediately be looking for someone to hang out with. Those first few weeks after we moved and Travis was at work all day, I had to get real used to flying solo. Now as much as I enjoy other people’s company after socializing I crave that time to myself.
6. Everyone does not idolize the US
Coming from the United States I assumed most Western countries thought the US was the end all, be all. Not that people bash the US (to me, at least) it is surprising to hear people say they have no interest in visiting the United States or go on about how unsafe it is.
7. You can maintain your relationships back home… if you make the effort
When my parents left for their first overseas assignment in the 80’s keeping in touch meant pricy long distance phone calls and writing those ancient things we call letters. Now with Skype, FaceTime, iMessage and all 9876 forms of social media staying in touch is much easier. BUT with the time difference it does take being intentional to keep those relationships in tact. Setting up phone dates and keeping a world clock set to Houston and London time has helped me avoid waking up my friends and family in the middle of the night. 🙂
8. I can survive without ALL that stuff
We moved from a four bedroom house with a yard to a small, two bedroom loft that doesn’t even have a patio. Before we moved we got rid of all of our furniture and TONS of other belongings (clothes, decorations etc) and still have a whole storage unit of things back at home. Luckily Trav’s company took care of the move for us, but there are lots of great removalist companies out there such as this interstate removals company that have great reviews online. Do I miss any of that stuff packed away? Nope. In fact, I have made multiple donation trips in the past year. It turns out we can do just fine without any fancy kitchen gadgets (or even a microwave) or extra closets filled with clothes we might someday wear. Minimalism is where it’s at.
9. Making friends as an adult is hard but you can do it
Real talk- I googled “How to make friends as an adult” when we first got here. It’s real awkward at first but you just have to put yourself out there. I made friends going to workout classes and I even met one of my best friends on a Facebook group for expats in Australia, definitely not something I would have done a year ago but now I have meaningful friendships as a result.
10. Everyday is an adventure
Rarely would I have ever considered our weekends in Houston as an adventure of any sort. Now I see that an adventure doesn’t mean jotting off to a foreign country or jumping out of an airplane, but every day can be an adventure. Being tourists in our adopted country (and city) turns any weekend into an adventure. We have loved planning out trips and picking new destinations to explore that are in our own backyard.
Sidetone: when you are new in a city and don’t know the public transportation system and/or roads well, every day is reallllllly an adventure. My mom used to always say “We aren’t lost unless we are out of gas, we are just on an adventure” (this was pre google maps and GPS technology, so we were always lost).
If you have made it to the end of this post, thanks for reading my long winded rambles and don’t worry I will be back with photo heavy travel posts next time. 🙂